Last week, the Farm Service Agency restarted the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup. This program gets its name from having no ending sign-up date, thus it is a continuous signup.
The CRP program is designed to take environmentally-sensitive land out of production and install conservation practices, by providing yearly rental payments and cost sharing for the installation costs.
Continuous CRP focuses on sod waterways, filter strips and marginal pastureland acreages. After last year’s heavy rainfalls and this spring’s abundant rains, many farmers are noticing gullies in fields that never had erosion issues before.
My experience on the farm tells me once a gully forms, it’s time to consider a sod-waterway. The CRP program provides about 90 percent of the cost to install waterways and adds on yearly rental payments on top.
Filter strips around each stream/creek, pond or river are also a great way to keep the soil on your farm and has a positive impact on water quality.
Our society is rapidly moving to requiring filter strips for ag land, so consider these as well.
A few years ago I installed 20-foot filter strips around all my streams and seasonal water courses. I am continually impressed by how much soil they retain and how easy they are to maintain.
The CRP program allows for mowing to keep the grass growth around 6 inches high, which helps catch the sediment before it reaches the stream.
During the past few years with high commodity prices, I noticed farmers in my area were crowding the streams to get another row of crops in.
Now that those prices have dramatical reduced, it is the perfect time to install a filter strip. I find they have made farming those fields next to streams a lot easier to farm by providing turn areas, and it also allows me room to maintain the stream banks, since I have room to get equipment to where I can remove the willows and multifora rose bushes. I often hear from my wife the farm looks better too.
Both the sod-waterway and filter strip practices have cropping history requirements to be eligible, so contact your FSA office to determine if you are eligible.
A little used but very good practice under Continuous CRP is the marginal pastureland practice. This program is designed to protect pastureland around the “margins” of streams, ponds or rivers.
The practice is similar to filter strips with differences in what kind of forage can be grown in filtering area. It doesn’t allow the flexibility in mowing, but does provide cost share for fencing, stream crossings, livestock crossings, and can even help develop watering systems for grazing livestock.
This practice also doesn’t have crop history requirements and fits most farming operations.